Christoph Graupner (1683-1760):
Overture for 2 Corni di Selva, Flute, Strings
Ouverture – Air en Rondeau – Air – Menuet – Rejouissance – Uccelino chiuso – Air alla polenese – Menuet
A favourite activity of the 18th century nobility was hunting, and it is known that Graupner’s patrons, the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt were enthusiastic participants. Their musicians were required to perform at hunting lodges in the vicinity of Darmstadt, and a likely musical requirement at hunting parties would have used horns. These instruments were the means of communicating the stages of the hunt from the advance party to the followers by means of recognised fanfares. The “Corni di Selva” of the title are hunting horns - the only form of horn that existed at the start of that century.
Graupner was a prolific composer who produced five decades of compositions for his court including hundreds of symphonies and suites. His obscurity was guaranteed on his death by a lengthy legal battle between his heirs and his patrons which was finally concluded by a court decision to deny the Graupner family the ability to perform or publish his work. His music is now becoming better known and for good reason: the Hesse-Darmstadt court employed many of the best musicians in Europe of a standard to rival the great courts at Dresden, Hamburg and Mannheim. Interestingly, both Graupner and Heinichen were born in the same year, studied law then music, and were both educated at the St Thomas School in Leipzig.
This Overture pays homage to The Hunt in its use of the horns. This is particularly evident in the main section of the first movement where Graupner interweaves fugal writing with snippets of hunting tunes. The 6th movement is remarkable for its bird calls played by the flute accompanied by pizzicato strings. The reference is to a caged bird used either during the hunt, as a decoy, or imprisoned after its capture. Whilst hunting might bring to mind the pursuit of four-legged animals, it was also popular in the 18th century to capture songbirds, both for their songs and for the dinner table. — AC
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767):
Concerto for Flute, Violin & Strings in e minor TWV 52:e3
(Allegro) - Adagio - Presto - Adagio - Allegro
Lully was famous, and Corelli ever praised:
But Telemann alone is over honour raised.
(A verse by Johann Mattheson, Germany’s most significant 18th century musical journalist and lexicographer, 1740)
It was Vivaldi's compositions that popularised the Italian concerto in Germany, and Telemann and many of his colleagues, including Bach, Graupner and Heinichen, studied his works closely. This Vivaldian influence is very present in the Concerto TWV52:e3 in its alternating solo sections and unison ritornelli. Graupner and Telemann were friends through their lifetime, and it is in a transcript by Graupner that this concerto survives. The concerto probably stems from Telemann's Frankfurt period, when Telemann was a Kappelmeister of the Franciscan Church, and the the director of the Collegium Musicum of the Fraunstein Society. He also had close links to the Court at Darmstadt, where Graupner worked. With these connections, Telemann had no shortage of skillful instrumentalists to perform his works. Instead of the typical three-movement concerto format, Telemann composed two brief middle movements following the second movement, the Presto being a burst of fireworks for the solo violin, and the following Adagio a tender interlude leading to the finale. — SS
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741):
Concerto for violin & strings in D major, "Il Grosso Mogul", op7/11 RV 208
Allegro - Largo - Allegro
During his lifetime, Antonio Vivaldi was primarily known for his virtuosity on the violin, rather than as a composer, and violin was clearly his favoured instrument in his compositions; out of his 640 instrumental works, 253 are violin concertos. The title of Vivaldi's Concerto "Il Grosso Mogul" alludes to the great Mughai Empire in India. Vivaldi composed this concerto for himself to play, and it is a great testimony to his virtuosity, with its lengthy and technically demanding cadenzas in the outer movements. This is also one of the concerti by Vivaldi which Johann Sebastian Bach studied closely, and it inspired his Organ Concerto in C, BWV 594, which is a modified transcription of the work. — SS
Georg Philipp Telemann:
Concerto for four violins without basso continuo in G major TWV 40:201
Largo e staccato - Allegro - Adagio - Vivace
Telemann wrote four concerti for four violins without basso continuo, TWV40:201-204. The occasion these were written for is unknown; perhaps he wrote these for his excellent colleagues to play, or to meet the demands of amateur players, or perhaps he just enjoyed the challenge of creating maximal tonal variety while being limited to just four identical instruments – a task in which he succeeded admirably. Each of the concerti are short and sweet and written in Telemann's favoured four-part format: slow-fast-slow-fast. The concerto in G major dwells on beautiful sonorities in its slow movements; the second movement is a fugue; and the final movement is based on a theme that could be an imitation of the call of a hunting horn. — SS
Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729):
Concerto for 2 Horns
Vivace – Arioso – Allegro
1708 was an illustrious year in the history of horn players. In the Dresden court two trumpeters were paid extra to stop playing the trumpet and concentrate on being the best horn players that they could become. The goal was to make the orchestra the envy of Europe and it was decided that the horn players might play their instruments better if they didn’t have to play other instruments. Prior to that date there had not been a full time horn player post anywhere in the world.
Some 12 years later Heinichen was appointed Kapellmeister in Dresden, where he wrote a large number of compositions including several concertos with two horns. The horn players in Dresden must have become highly skilled by this time, since the horn parts in most of these concertos, including this one, are quite virtuosic, with many special effects, such as crossing parts, imitative entries, fast articulation, high notes, echoes (particularly in the last movement), and (of course) references to hunting music.
Tonight’s horn players will also be glad to accept any additional payments in return for not playing the trumpet… — AC
Concerto for flute, violin, bassoon & continuo in F Major RV 100
Allegro - Largo - Allegro
Like Graupner and Telemann, Vivaldi can be thanked for writing for unusual combinations of instruments, giving us such delightful works as the Concerto for flute, violin, bassoon and continuo in F major RV100. Whomever the bassoon player Vivaldi had in mind when writing this concerto, he or she must have been a skillful one. In the fast movements of this concerto Vivaldi gives each of the solo instruments a chance to shine, reserving, however, the busiest part for the bassoon. The second movement is a transparent aria-like movement scored just for flute and bassoon, the flute floating in an improvisatory manner above the beautiful descending ostinato-like bassoon line. Vivaldi clearly had a soft spot for the bassoon – he gave us some 39 solo concerti for the instrument, a number only exceeded by his violin concerti. — SS
Georg Philipp Telemann:
Concerto in D, TWV53:D5,
Arranged by Pisendel (1687-1755)
Vivace – Adagio – Allegro
Another friend to the 18th century horn players was the Dresden concert-master Johann Georg Pisendel, who added horn parts to many of the court compositions (once they had horn players to employ), as well as writing his own compositions for them. In the case of this Concerto he actually changed the trumpet part of the original work to a horn part.
A very fine violinist, Pisendel obviously found in Telemann’s work, a platform for his own virtuosity. It is interesting that Telemann wrote in his autobiography of 1718 that he disapproved of excess virtuosity in instrumental concertos. This example, however, seems to break his own ethos in this regard, with enough flourishes for the violin to make it a violin concerto. There are just enough moments for the other instruments to shine as well, (some of those instruments added to the score by Pisendel) to make it truly a “multi-instrument” concerto. — AC